BACK TO TOP
- An American
- Ideas & issues
- Sustain yourself
- How to plan your own Moral Monday
- Building peace teams
Corporation Search: A tool to search federal agency websites
for press releases and documents related to enforcement actions
against a company or individual.
& stores supporting the right
- Angel Soft
Brawny paper towels
- Home Depot
- Miracle Gro
- Quilted Northern
- Soft n Gentle
- Sparkle napkins
- Vanity Fair napkins
A short guide for activists
Becoming and being an activist
- Hidden issues
& CREDIT UNIONS
List of credit unions
Move your money
Organizing mass transfer to credit unions
Building student unions
All about cooperatives
The community land trust alternative
How to organize a anti-corporate personhood
Background info on ALEC
States and towns that have taken
action against Citizens United
Employee ownership and co-ops:
key to a new economy
How progressives can use Twitter
How progressives can use Facebook
Labor law concerning social media
Right to work laws explained
List of cars made by the UAW
How to answer people like rush
The non-profit blues: Can the
revolution be funded?
The care and feeding of non-profit boards
The Occupy Handbook
List of demands
What the Situationists could tell
Leading from behind
198 methods of non-violent action
Techniques of mediators
Why protest works
Why rallies fail
How to start a 99% club
Know your rights
Defend yourself against tear gas
Rights of photograpers
Cellphone guide for protesters
A guide to your public photography
Activist teacher's handbook
How to stage a boycott at your
Hiring more high tech women
THINGS TO DO
How to keep Wall Street really
occupied without living in a tent
Why public banks work
Time for a movement
Ideas for a better U.S.
Post empire America
The care and feeding of non-profit boards
Where change really comes from
Why it's so hard to make good things happen
Some things we might share
twin tasks of a movement
Becoming and living as an actvist
Being a rebel
Where is the counterculture when
we need it?
Building little republics in a
Rebellions contain multitudes
hat trick of change
The quiet storm: blowin' in the
wind of decay
Ideas for a better U.S.
BACK TO TOP
- New documentary: War on Whistleblowers: Free Press
and the National Security State
- Independent film on Detroit
- Documentary on the UAW leaders, the
- Road to Apartheid: a documentary by a South African and a Jewish
Nothing good happens
unless good people outside of Washington are mobilized, energized,
and organized to make it happen.- Robert Reich
long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead
them out of bondage. He has not come; he never will come. I would
not lead you out if I could for if you could be led out, you
could be led back again. -- Eugene V. Debs
made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could
do only a little. -- Edmund Burke
you do is of little significance. But it is very important that
you do it - Gandhi
is my rent for living on this planet - Alice Walker
New film on the Koch brothers
The Most Dangerous Man in America Daniel Ellsberg risked life in
prison to leak secret Pentagon documents showing the government's
deception about the Vietnam War.
interview with Saul Alinsky
FBI's War on Student Radicals,
and Reagan's Rise to Power
Howard Zinn's collected speeches
Jane Adams: A new biography
Ten ways the occupy movement changes
The establishment that no longer
Living in a dysfunctional family
Change the culture; the politics
America has to learn how to manage
Confronting post-political disorder
How communities can take on government
A biography of Cesar Chavez and
the farm workers
Learning from the Sixties: Memoir of
This Changes Everything: The meaning and importance of the occupy
The Man Who Never Died: A bio of labor organizer Joe Hill
including evidence that he was framed
Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists,
Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite. .
his brilliant analysis, psychologist Bruce Levine explains the
process by which mainstream America has become demoralized and
docile, how those in power maintain that power, and what it will
take to turn things around."--Jim Gottstein, President/CEO
Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity,
and Ingenuity Can Change the World by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson
Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut:
Misadventures in the Counterculture by Paul Krassner . . .Krassner, a long-time contributor
to the now deceased print edition of the Progressive Review,
is out with an expanded edition of his memoirs. . . .
ON GANDHI'S PATH: BOB SWANN'S WORK FOR PEACE
AND COMMUNITY ECONOMICS by
Stephanie Mills. Robert Swann was a self-taught economist, a
tireless champion of decentralism, and the father of the relocalization
movement. A conscientious war resistor imprisoned for his beliefs,
Bob Swann engaged in lifelong nonviolent direct action against
war, racism, and economic inequity. His legacy is a vision of
a life-affirming, alternative economy of peace founded on innovations
in land and monetary reform.
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle
With India. How Gandhi became Gandhi
HOW INTERNET RADIO CAN CHANGE
THE WORLD: AN ACTIVIST'S HANDBOOK
BUILDING POWERFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: A Personal Guide to Creating
Groups That Can Solve Problems and Change the World, by Michael
Jacoby Brown, Long Haul Press, $19.95.
CALLING ALL RADICALS: How Grassroots Organizers Can
Save Our Democracy, by Gabriel Thompson, Nation Books, $14.95.
TOOLS FOR RADICAL DEMOCRACY:
How to Organize for Power in Your Community, by Joan Minieri
and Paul Getsos, Chardon Press, $29.95.
Taking Back our Neighborhoods:
that work, Mary Wachter, Cynthia Tinsley. A step-by-step plan
for creating a more pleasant, less violent neighborhood.
The Careless Society:
Community and its Counterfeits,
John McKnight. Considers how the efforts of "experts"
may in fact be destroying neighborhoods; celebrates the ability
of neighborhoods to heal from within. Focuses on four "counterfeiting"
aspects of society: professionalism, medicine, human service
systems, and the criminal justice system. Has reflections on
Christian service and its transformation into carelessness.
Going Local: Creating
self-reliant communities in a global age, Michael Shuman. Many communities are handing
out corporate welfare to encourage businesses to relocate to
their areas. Presents positive alternatives: (1) invest in locally-owned
businesses like credit unions, cooperatives, community land trusts,
municipally owned utilities, small worker-owned firms, community
development corporations, local share-holder owned firms; (2)
focus on import-replacing rather than export-led, i.e. reduce
dependence on distant sources of energy, water, food, and basic
materials; (3) eliminate many subsidies and change tax and trade
laws. A challenge to conservative and liberals alike. I have
ordered this one myself.
From Mondragon to America:
Experiments in Community Economic Development, Gregory MacLeod. The Mondragon
cooperatives of the Basque region of Spain grow out of the teaching
of the social justice doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
In the 1950s, five people joined together in a cooperative to
make paraffin stoves in a garage. Today, the Mondragon cooperatives
have more than 30,000 owner-employees in over 100 different enterprises,
doing everything from manufacturing machine tools to distributing
Organizing the South
Bronx. Jim Rooney,
Nathan Glazer. A study of the process by which the residents
of an impoverished urban neighborhood were educated and organized
to fight the city government for vacant land and build low-cost,
owner-occupied housing. Such organizing, mainly working through
traditional churches, is rapidly growing in the US and has close
relatives in Latin America. Pricey, but very interesting.
Organizing for Social
Change: A manual
for activists in the 1990s, Kim Bobo, et al. A comprehensive
manual for grassroots organizers working for social, political,
environmental, and economic change at the local, state, and national
The Activist's Handbook:
A primer for the
1990s and beyond, Randy Shaw. A true handbook, has detailed examples
of action in a wide variety of areas - crime prevention, affordable
housing, ecology, and etc. Analyzes campaigns that succeeded
and some that failed.
Bridging the Class
Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing, Linda Stout, Howard Zinn. Uses
an organizing model with seven principles: focus on social change,
work across lines of race and class, diversity of outreach and
training, linking local and national issues, developing personal
empowerment and organizational power, flexibility to meet changing
from the Inside Out:
A path toward finding and mobilizing a community's assets, John
Kretzmann and John McKnight. Studies successful community-building
initiatives in hundreds of US neighborhoods.
Let the People Decide:
Neighborhood organizing in America (Social Movements Past and
Fisher. Updated and revised, studies the period 1886 to the 1980s
Fight Back: How you
and your neighbors can take action to improve your community, Dennis King. An investigative
reporter takes would-be community activists through the basic
Rules for Radicals:
A practical primer for realistic radicals, by Saul Alinsky. If you can only buy one
book on community organizing, get this one. He writes from an
viewpoint of left ideology (but non-marxist), yet his action
principles transcend narrow sectarian politics and can, with
proper adaptation and consideration of the real world situation
you are in, be used in many different contexts, for both faith-based
and secular organizing activities. Not for the faint of heart,
but for those who are ready to go to work. The style is easy
to read, you may be surprised at some of his conclusions. Read
this book and you will understand more about the success of groups
as divergent as the "religious right" and neighborhood
community development groups.
BUILDING POWERFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: A
Personal Guide to Creating Groups That Can Solve Problems and
Change the World, by Michael Jacoby Brown, Long Haul Press, $19.95.
ALL RADICALS: How Grassroots Organizers Can Save Our
Democracy, by Gabriel Thompson, Nation Books, $14.95.
FOR RADICAL DEMOCRACY: How to Organize for Power in Your
Community, by Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos, Chardon Press, $29.95.
. . . .
nonviolent action database
Steinem at 80
Getting the free speech movement
going 50 years ago
McDonalds workers in New York, California and Michigan
filed class action suits against the chain, as well as several
franchises, for wage theft violations. The cases accuse the fast-food
giant of systematically stealing employees wages
by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their
time cards and not paying them overtime, among other practices,
according to a press release by the workers lawyers.
Populist movement growing
Church and labor come together
Building peace teams
The activist weakness of the Internet
Major whistleblowing organization
US psychologists' association
rejects ban on aiding military interrogations
The idea behind the Moral Movement
Moral March protest catches hold
big time in North Carolina
The Georgia Moral Monday movement
2004 GOP convention produces largest
protest settlement in history
How corporations try to crush
Student leader elected to Chile's
U.N. urges end of U.S. embargo
on Cuba for 22nd time
NY's City College uses force to
silence student protest
Tale of two meetings
Bernie Sanders helps to organize
Reflections on OWS
Word: The limits of leadership
How a hacker and a rapper came
together to help reduce murders in New Orleans over beefs
What protests in Turkey, Egypt
and Brazil have in common
Progressive activism bubbling
From activism to clicktivism
Report: Hard times for fund raisers
Local Heroes: Retired Philly Police
Captain (And Occupy Wall Street Protester) Wont Take Off
Top social change documentaries of
FBI failed to warn Occupiers of
planned assasination attempt
Movements that worked in 2012
A journalist on living in the
Amnesty International staff and
management in major struggle
Sandy remakes the Occupy movement
Moving towards a movement
idea of the day
Police went undercover to spy
on Occupy Austin
The failure of the AFL-CIO
UAW endorses a Green Party candidate
Spanish anti-austerity movement
A jolt of student activism
Reviving student organizing
Interview with peace activist
Senator Wyden wants warrent for
Issues behind the Hyatt boycott
Major boycott of Hyatt hotels
Amnesty International USA's new
politics stirs opposition
Growing interest in worker ownership
Interview with Green Party veep
Philadelphia mayor denying water
to Occupiers in heat wave
Father Berrigan still on the case
Tourism as a tool of social change
Suspended for civil disobedience,
students create their own 'freedom school'
Vermont nuclear battle shows why
states rights are important
Vermont says no to Citizens United
Good list of articles on the continuing
problems in the Gulf
Community radio poised for big
Colorado GOP assembly and Democratic
convention vote to legalize pot
The city that shows how to fight
Another reason to boycott movies
Bank divestment movement growing
The attack on the Postal Service
Why abused America has such a
hard time fighting back
Churches move millions from Wall
Slogan of the day: Don't Iraq Iran
The case for crashing the justice
Twitter just sold your tweets
POGO adds 40 new firms to its federal contractor
Grad students campaign to unionize
Nader calls for $10 minimum wage
Youth curfew killed in Maryland
Current TV: new media hope for
Big nonprofit suddenly stops operations
Nearly one billion people belong
to (and own) cooperatives
Cash mobs helping local businesses
Ran across a nifty
little action device used
by Left Action in the wake of the healthcare bill. Senator DeMint
had argued that the GOP would defeat the bill and that it would
be President Obama's "Waterloo." So, after the bill
passed, Left Action got its supporters to post the ABBA song
"Waterloo" - using direct links to YouTube - over and
over again on DeMint's Facebook page.
Mainstream media pushes false
notion that progressive protests are violent
New torture device to use against
Nurses' union pushing tax on financial
Ten ways the occupy movement changes
Protest technique of the day
- Organizing Florida faculty
The fight to end corporate personhood
- How USB dead drop file sharing
- WHERE IS
THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT?
- MEDEA BENJAMIN CHALLENGES JON
STUDY: NON VIOLENCE WORKS BETTER
Volunteering gets you more sex
We told you about the British
its patrons to remove all its books to protest its potential
closing. Well, it worked. The 'Wot No Books' campaign removed
all 16,000 with librarians checking out as many 380 books an
hour. The Guardian quoted one user as saying, "The library
is the one place where you find five-year-olds and 90-year-olds
together, and it's where young people learn to be proper citizens'.
It's crazy even to consider closing it.'"
The non-profit blues: Can the
revolution be funded?
Eric Tang, Post Capitalist
Project - Non-profits,
also known as non-governmental organizations, are often stripped
down to their barest and most essential nature as an IRS tax
category: the 501(c)3. This official registration with the government
grants the accreditation needed to receive government funding
and funds through private philanthropic foundations. In exchange,
the grassroots non-profit must adopt legally binding by-laws,
elect a board of directors modeled after corporations, and open
board minutes and fiscal accounting to the public. Previously
considered anathema to the grassroots Left, these practices are
accepted governing principles of many community organizations.
Years ago the Left made
a decision to go down a certain road towards non-profit incorporation.
There were some victories but also a good number of political
casualties, according to those who took part in that turn. Yet
open dialogue on the complex challenges posed by the non-profit
has often taken a back seat to the immediate need of getting
important work done. Resultantly, a new generation of leaders
inherit the unresolved dilemmas.
New activists in community,
labor, and justice struggles are soon made aware that they bear
heavy burdens. They must carry forth movements that ended Jim
Crow, created environmental justice, and inspired mass anti-war
protests. The young organizer can take a course that covers Cesar
Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers and learn
that all union members, even the lowest paid, contributed regular
membership dues. Chavez insisted, "this is the only way
the workers will 'own' the organization." Young activists
will inevitably take a hard look at grassroots organizing that
lives on foundation grants, hires a development director to raise
funds to free others to do the real work, and adopts management
systems which are foreign, if not alienating, to the values and
skills-set of the grassroots base. Contradictions will be analyzed:
Why do we apply for a
police permit to protest the police?
Because if we break
the law, our board is liable.
Why can't we lobby?
that would violate our 501(c)3 status and the conditions of our
Why not just take the
Because insurance doesn't cover it. . .
Indeed, the majority of
organizational leaders I've sat down with over the past year
and a half-whose work ranges from defeating the onset of neoliberal
policies in public schools, to the ongoing struggle against police
violence, to defending the rights of immigrant communities-have
experienced, to varying degrees, an onset of the NP blues. They
are concerned about the ways in which the priorities of philanthropy
tamper with the organizing work, or how NP governance makes impossible
the principle of unity which calls for youth and working class
people at the center. Worse still is how hiring and promotion
policies have led to competition and individualism among the
A QUICK GUIDE TO HOW TO ANSWER
PEOPLE LIKE RUSH LIMBAUGH
- WHY FACEBOOK WONT BRING
- ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT SEEMS WORN OUT
- REAL ACTIVISM VS. MOVE-ON CLICKTIVISM
HOW TO HOLD BETTER MEETINGS
UNHAPPY WORKERS AT A SUBURBAN DC HILTON
FIND A GOOD PLACE TO MAKE A POINT
LEADING FROM BEHIND
An interesting interview
with Nelson Mandela appears in Time Magazine in which Mandela
lays out ten principles of leadership. Number 3 particularly
struck us because it is one that seems to have been forgotten
in an age governed by corporate executive systems of control
rather than the community organizer's rules of getting things
No. 3: Lead from the back
- and let others believe they are in front. Mandela loved to
reminisce about his boyhood and his lazy afternoons herding cattle.
"You know," he would say, "you can only lead them
from behind." . . .
As a boy, Mandela was
greatly influenced by Jongintaba, the tribal king who raised
him. When Jongintaba had meetings of his court, the men gathered
in a circle, and only after all had spoken did the king begin
to speak. The chief's job, Mandela said, was not to tell people
what to do but to form a consensus. "Don't enter the debate
too early," he used to say.
"During the time
I worked with Mandela, he often called meetings of his kitchen
cabinet at his home in Houghton, a lovely old suburb of Johannesburg.
He would gather half a dozen men, Ramaphosa, Thabo Mbeki (who
is now the South African President) and others around the dining-room
table or sometimes in a circle in his driveway. Some of his colleagues
would shout at him - to move faster, to be more radical - and
Mandela would simply listen. When he finally did speak at those
meetings, he slowly and methodically summarized everyone's points
of view and then unfurled his own thoughts, subtly steering the
decision in the direction he wanted without imposing it. The
trick of leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. "It
is wise," he said, "to persuade people to do things
and make them think it was their own idea."
COMMUNITY GETS CONTROL OF ITS WATER SYSTEM
WHY WHAT OBAMA IS DOING IS NOT
RECOVERED HISTORY: WHERE ARE
Your editor was recently
on a local Pacifica station program during which a participant
suggested that public opposition to the Iraq war had been minimal.
Longtime DC activist Jenefer Ellingston writes to note that "in
February 2003 20 million people around the world demonstrated
against Bush's plan to invade Iraq. . . probably the first protest
before an invasion. It was the largest anti-war march in the
history of anti-war demonstrations. Not just several million
in America - In DC, NYC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco,
Los Angeles . . . and smaller cities, but every capitol in Europe.
Not thousands, millions.
"It's possible that
one reason the peace movement is not visible in large numbers
is: It's too expensive. That's why protests have been organized
in cities across America - barely mentioned and rarely covered
by the media. Our last demonstrations took place in 600 cities.
Suppose there were 1,000 people in each of those 600 cities .
. . that's a lot of people."
LOSING ISN'T ALL THAT BAD
THE ECO APPROACH TO MEETINGS
LOCAL HEROES: THE FREEWAY BLOGGER
HOW TO GET A POLICE CHIEF TO BACK
SNEAKY, ILLEGAL SEARCHES
DC's police chief Kathy
Lanier came up with a plan to get people to allow officers to
search their homes for any object by granting them immunity only
from the city' gun law. The local
ACLU, led by Johnny Barnes, got on the case with a door to
door information campaign that soon turned into a neighborhood
march. With this sort of protest, Chief Lanier soon backed off
of her sneaky search scheme.
HOW MEXICAN ACTIVISTS USE BLOCKADES
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M STUDENTS
TAKE ON THE GOP
VOTES - Texas Republicans have worked overtime
to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and
be represented fairly. For the Prairie View A&M University
precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles
from the school. So what did the students do? They shut down
the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on
the first day of early voting.
GREAT MOMENTS IN ACTIVISM:
THE BLUE TAPE SCREED
A LETTER TO THOMAS
[We recently came across
this while rummaging through our files. It was written by Edward
Schwartz of the Institute for the Study of Civic Values for Social
Policy in 1974]
Mr. Thomas Jefferson
Dear Mr. Jefferson:
We have read your "Declaration of Independence" with
great interest. Certainly, it represents a considerable undertaking,
and many of your statements do merit serious consideration. Unfortunately,
the Declaration as a whole fails to meet recently adopted specifications
for proposals to the Crown, so we must return the document to
you for further refinement. The questions which follow might
assist you in your process of revision.
1. In your opening paragraph you use the phrase "the Laws
of Nature and Nature's God." What are these laws? In what
way are they the criteria on which you base your central arguments?
Please document with citations from the recent literature.
2. In the same paragraph you refer to the "opinions of mankind."
Whose polling data are you using? Without specific evidence,
it seems to us, the "opinions of mankind" are a matter
3. You hold certain truths to be "self-evident." Could
you please elaborate. If they are as evident as you claim, then
it should not be difficult for you to locate the appropriate
4. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" seem
to be the goals of your proposal. These are not measurable goals.
If you were to say that "among these is the ability to sustain
an average life expectancy in six of the 13 colonies of at least
55 years, and to enable all newspapers in the colonies to print
news without outside interference, and to raise the average income
of the colonists by 10 percent in the next 10 years," these
would be measurable goals. Please clarify.
5. You state that "whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter
or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government. ..."
Have you weighed this assertion against all the alternatives?
Or is it predicated solely on the baser instincts?
6. Your description of the existing situation is quite extensive.
Such a long list of grievances should precede the statement of
goals, not follow it.
7. Your strategy for achieving your goal is not developed at
all. You state that the colonies "ought to be Free and Independent
States," and that they are "Absolved from All Allegiance
to the British Crown." Who or what must change to achieve
this objective? In what way must they change? What resistance
must you overcome to achieve the change? What specific steps
will you take to overcome the resistance? How long will it take?
We have found that a little foresight in these areas helps to
prevent careless errors later on.
8. Who among the list of signatories will be responsible for
implementing your strategy? Who conceived it? Who provided the
theoretical research? Who will constitute the advisory committee?
Please submit an organization chart.
9. You must include an evaluation design. We have been requiring
this since Queen Anne's War.
10. What impact will your program have? Your failure to include
any assessment of this inspires little confidence in the long-range
prospects of your undertaking.
11. Please submit a PERT diagram, an activity chart, and an itemized
We hope that these comments prove useful in revising your "Declaration
GOOD DAYS FOR LESSER SEATTLE
CANVASSING FOR GOOD CAUSES MAY BE LOSING
THE LEFT SOME GOOD ACTIVISTS
PHOTO BY CAMARONN
CHILDREN REVOLT IN CHILE
THE 25 YEAR PROTEST: LONGEST VIGIL ANYWHERE
THE OUTHOUSES OF UNGER
TINY CAMERAS ALLOW THE WATCHED TO WATCH THE WATCHERS
HOWARD ZINN: WHAT CAN I DO?
HOWARD ZINN, THE PROGRESSIVE - What does
it take to bring a turnaround in social consciousness - from
being a racist to being in favor of racial equality, from being
in favor of Bush's tax program to being against it, from being
in favor of the war in Iraq to being against it? We desperately
want an answer, because we know that the future of the human
race depends on a radical change in social consciousness.
It seems to me that we need not engage
in some fancy psychological experiment to learn the answer, but
rather to look at ourselves and to talk to our friends. We then
see, though it is unsettling, that we were not born critical
of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month,
or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us,
and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed
in our consciousness - embedded there by years of family prejudices,
orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television.
BELATED BHUTAN UPDATE
[NEWS of February's
first international conference on gross national happiness has
only just reached us from Bhutan.]
90% OF NON-PROFITS REPORT FISCAL STRESS, BUT FIND
WAYS OF COPING
[From Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi's
speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on November
ANDRAS SIMONYI - I was four when Russians
tanks rolled down the streets of Budapest. . . I was just a kid
and I didn't really understand what was happening. But it did
leave a strong mark in my mind. I must say that I had a great
family - a great father, mother, a brother and a sister, who
helped preserve a life for me. That was pretty much like yours;
they were very protective. This family took me to Denmark in
1960 where my father was trade representative, I had the luck
to go to an American school - that's probably why I picked up
some English and Danish, and I had the honor to just live the
ordinary life of an ordinary guy on the streets of Copenhagen.
While I was in Denmark, particularly in
'66 and '67, like the Danes embraced the rock music at its best,
like the Danes got to know Cream, Jimmy Hendrix, Zappa, Jefferson
Airplane, Janis Joplin and you name it, I got to know them as
well. I was listening to this kind of music day and night. I
didn't know what the underlying message was and I didn't care.
I just thought this was something that I had to embrace.
In 1965, I bought with the help of my father
my first guitar. . . It was a great guitar, it's a copy of a
Fender Jaguar. I had a great time until in '67 we moved back
to Budapest. Budapest at that time was not a very funny place.
It was a pretty tough, dark, and gloomy place. It was just ten
years after the 1956 revolution which was broken by the Soviets.
Still, society was quietly and slowly coming alive. But it was
a very tough place to be, especially for me who'd got used to
freedom - freedom in the way I dressed, freedom in the way I
communicated, freedom in the way I talked to people, and freedom
in the way I picked up my music.
The music that I thought so much of was
simply not available in Hungary. I stayed a year with an aunt
and uncle of mine who turned out to be a very conservative communist.
And honestly, they didn't get it when I started to explain about
Good Vibrations and the Four Tops and the Spencer Davis group.
She didn't understand. And my brother and I, we had a big old
Bakelite radio that I got from my father so we could listen to
Western radio stations and we used to listen to that at night.
Listening to that music at night was very important to us to
keep track of what was going on in the West. One night as we
were listening to some real nice stuff, the old man came in,
very angry, and took away the radio. Next day we asked for an
audience and we said "Sorry for having listened to this
music so loud," and he said "The problem was not that
it was loud. The problem was that you were listening to a Western
radio station." That was something that really hurt us -
I was 14 and my brother was 16 - being told you're not allowed
to listen to music on a Western radio station that we always
used to listen to. That was real tough. And we got to understand
very quickly that this Hungary is not very similar to the Denmark
where we used to live.
Still, you had to keep going and it was
so important for me, my continuing to keep in touch with the
music scene in the West. It kept us sane and kind of made us
part of the free world. We would listen to Radio Free Europe,
Voice of America, and above all, to Radio Luxemburg. We used
to listen to this stuff at night and as we listened to this radio,
as we listened to Radio Luxemburg, we were suddenly out of our
bodies and our soul was part of the free world. We would join
our peers in the West. We would be part of the scene that was
so natural for all of you here in the United States or in England
or Denmark or Holland or elsewhere in the free world.
As I returned to Hungary, I was a good
student. I don't know if I was smart but I always had good grades
and that was in order to get things out the way so I could do
my music. I did a lot of practicing, formed my own band, and
got in touch with the Hungarian music scene which, strangely
enough, started to grow immediately after the rock explosion
in the West. The instruments were lousy, so I was a cool guy,
I had great instruments. Instruments in general were no good
but some guys somehow managed to get great instruments and they
produced some good sound. And it was so good to be a part of
this. That's where I met my old-time very best friend, Gabor
Presser, who was my mentor, was my great friend - he's still
my best friend, and he's still a great musician. . .
Of course, there was no records to be had.
Here, you heard Led Zeppelin on the radio, the next day you walked
into a record shop and bought it. In Hungary, we couldn't do
that. Therefore, when we got hold of records, it was so much
valuable. It was much more meaningful to us - it was not just
something to consume, to buy. It wasn't just owning it; it was
way beyond that. No one Hungarian had all the records, but somehow
Hungarians together managed to get all the records. We would
copy these records. I hope the copyright guys don't listen now
because, honestly, whatever the reason, they would have clamped
down on the Hungarians copying this stuff. But we would walk
into this record store that would make one single copy of a record
and sell it to us. We would tape it and then spread it five hundred
times. That was kind of nice. That was really important to us.
One way or another, we were very much part of the scene. . .
I created my own band and it was kind of
a strange band. . . We used to play Cream in '67, '68 and '69.
I would do Rory Gallagher, I would do some early Fleetwood Mac
stuff. It was really very special because I'd always thought
this was at the avant-garde of rock music. In 1969 however a
band led by Stevie Winwood called Traffic, which I loved so much,
came to Budapest. I had no idea how they got there and it was
the strangest thing because I would know all the Traffic tunes
by heart, you name it and I could sing it and I try to play it.
"Mr. Fantasy" and "Medicated Goo," or whatever.
With the help of my father, I figured out
where Traffic would be staying, which hotel, and after the concert
I'd hang out at the hotel and Stevie Winwood shows up and it
is like, I don't know, may I say it is like God showing up? And
I started talking to him and we had some words and he said I'm
sorry, I got to go, but I figured out that maybe it would be
a good idea that I act as a guide for the rest of the group.
So I took Jim Capaldi, the drummer, and Albert, the road manager
down to Lake Balaton - which, by the way, is a place you've to
got visit sometime - and we hung out for a couple of days. I
was very really into something very special, talking to these
people. That left a lasting mark on my attitude to music. Here
is what happened: A few weeks ago my guys came back and said
Stevie Winwood is playing in Washington this weekend. We got
hold of Stevie Winwood and I went down to see the concert, a
great concert. We started talking about what happened 35 years
ago. He said "Yes, I remember. I didn't go to the Lake with
you because I had to go and listen to some gipsy music."
And I said "Steve, how did you get [to Hungary]?" He
said "I don't know because we didn't go to any of the other
East European communist countries." "Can you give me
an explanation?" He said "Call Chris Blackwell."
So I called Chris Blackwell, who was then their manager and I
asked, "Chris, what the hell was Traffic doing in Hungary?"
He said, "Look, I think you had some opening in '68 because
no one else would take us in but Hungarians were crazy with this
music and somehow the authorities allowed this to happen."
I didn't know then, and it didn't click,
that was exactly the couple of years when the system lightened
up a little, culture lightened up a little, economy lightened
up a little, and of course Hungarians embraced as much as they
could from the free world in this short opening which only lasted
until 1972. But it was also something interesting that I have
to tell you, and it didn't click before I talked to Steve Winwood:
Hungarians didn't understand the text [of any of the rock tunes].
And I just suddenly realized that it was not the text but the
power of music, the power of a couple of guys standing on stage
with a Stratocaster, with a Fender bass, a guy playing on organ,
a drummer playing a Gretsch drum set, that really made Hungarians
think this was something very important.
So while the authorities tried to limit
through the propaganda machinery the impact of this on Hungarians
and obviously also on other Central Eastern Europeans, there
was no way to stop the onslaught of the message of freedom through
rock and roll. That was the most powerful instrument to convey
the message to my generation about the free world. I do believe
today, what the satellite and VHS was for the '80s and what the
Internet is today, was rock and roll and rock music in the '60s
and the early '70s. It was about sending a strong message of
freedom through the Berlin Wall to us who were living behind
the Iron Curtain. . .
We wanted to make music come as close to
the best of the best in the free world as we could. . . And the
funny thing was - you should understand that the lyrics were
censored. We always had to scratch out something. We always had
to change the words. When we spoke about the freedom of man or
the freedom of the world, they would put something foolish into
the text. They didn't realize that the music itself was more
powerful than the text. They didn't realize that the real power
lay in the music. So therefore my fellow musicians, those who
came after us, they tried and expanded our little freedoms as
much as they could. Sometimes they would hurt us, sometimes they
wouldn't. Sometimes they would "understand" what we
were doing, sometimes not. . .
In 1972, I was going to defect from Hungary.
I said, this is not the world I want to live in. I remember in
1972, I was standing in the railway station in Copenhagen and
I called my mother and I said "Mom, I am not coming home."
And she said "Son, okay, you're not coming home, but then
I and Dad and your brother and sister will not be able to live
the lives we want them to live." So I went back. And frankly,
I didn't regret it because in 1974 I met Nada, my wife. That
was a big deal and I think I enchanted her by starting to - I
remember we were sitting in a bus and I started explaining to
her about the new George Harrison hit "Bangladesh"
and, you know, I described it to her from all angles. I think
I was successful because she changed a lot through my convincing.
But I also want to tell you that in the
meanwhile there was a hardening of the system and two guys from
the band Locomotive GT defected to the United States. The drummer
[Jozsef (Joe) Laux], and my great friend and hero the guitarist
Tamas Barta. The saddest of all stories is that Tamas arrived
in the United States and figured out that he will not be the
great star that he used to be in Hungary and he will not be able
to make it here and he ended up being shot in Los Angeles. It's
a sad story but he really never was able to leave Hungary spiritually.
Wanted to embrace so much the free world, the West. And this
collision of the lack of freedom and wanting to be a Hungarian
led to his fate. I miss him still. . .
In 1988. . . Amnesty International was
on a world tour, and that was the year when I knew the Wall will
be torn down and we will put an end to the Cold War and Hungary
will soon be free. Amnesty International was brought to Hungary
by Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Bruce Springsteen.
Just imagine the powerful message of Bruce Springsteen singing
"Born in the USA" at the stadium in Budapest and 80,000
Hungarian kids roaring and saying, yes, we're together. That
was the year when I was 100 percent convinced that [communism]
will be over soon. My friends in the West reacted in disbelief,
but I was right. What stronger message than the message that
came through rock music can you imagine?
In 1989, the world moved on and Hungary
was free again. You might wonder, what next? My personal life,
the music that I embraced all my life has played an incredible
role of since. I have a very easy rapport with my friends and
colleagues in the West, primarily in the United States. I got
to know friends who are working for the U.S. government when
we suddenly figured out that we were listening to the same kind
of music. I name one song, you name the band. That's how I met
your ambassador to Moscow [Alexander Vershbow], who used to be
my friend and colleague in NATO, and he used to be a rock musician
when he was a kid, still plays. And as we grew closer, as Hungary
started to move into NATO, the closer this friendship grew. We
jammed together and this really made our friendship close. We
both agree that this is something that has to continue to glue
I believe that rock music is not imperial,
not imperialistic. Mozart used to belong to the Austrians. Does
anyone ask anywhere in the world - in China, in the United States,
in Brazil, in Moscow - where Mozart came from? You couldn't care
less. The music that Traffic played, that Cream played, that
Jimmy Hendrix played, that "Skunk" Baxter played belongs
not to the United States or to the UK any longer - it belongs
all of us. . . Rock and roll music is universal; it is a universal
language. It's easy to embrace. It speaks to the people. That
is why it was so useful and meaningful in penetrating communist
society. Because it was understandable for all the peoples. It
was not aristocratic, it belonged to all of us, the man on the
street - the little guy who was walking on the streets of Budapest
and the little guy who was walking on the streets of Warsaw or
Prague. Just like the little guy walking in the streets of New
York, Los Angeles, or Cleveland.
Try, if you haven't tried it, the excitement
of strumming a Stratocaster. I think that's the closest you can
get to heaven before you really get there. Rock is about freedom,
rock is believing in our freedom and the freedom of others. I
reject the attacks that I hear on rock and roll music. . .
STATES - SAM SMITH, WHY
BOTHER? - In rock and rap -- as in blues and folk music earlier
-- people found that what they couldn't achieve could still be
sung or shouted about. And central to this sound was not just
a message but who was allowed to deliver it. For example, the
music webzine, Fast 'n' Bulbous, described punk this way:
"Punk gives the message that no one
has to be a genius to do it him/herself. Punk invented a whole
new spectrum of do-it-yourself projects for a generation. Instead
of waiting for the next big thing in music to be excited about,
anyone with this new sense of autonomy can make it happen themselves
by forming a band. Instead of depending on commercial media,
from the big papers and television to New Musical Express and
Rolling Stone, to tell them what to think, anyone can create
a fanzine, paper, journal or comic book. With enough effort and
cooperation they can even publish and distribute it. Kids were
eventually able to start their own record labels too. Such personal
empowerment leads to other possibilities in self-employment and
To move from challenging record companies
to taking on the World Trade Organization was not an easy or
obvious journey, but clearly some of the attitudes that made
the anti-globalization protests possible were formed in clubs
and not at conferences. . .
By the end of the 1990s, an unremittingly
political band, Rage Against the Machine, had sold more than
7 million copies of its first two albums and its third, The Battle
of Los Angele, (released on Election Day 1999), sold 450,000
copies its first week. Nine months later, there would be a live
battle of Los Angeles as the police shut down a RATM concert
at the Democratic Convention.
Throughout the 1990s, during a nadir of
activism and an apex of greed, RATM both raised hell and made
money. In 1993 the band, appearing at Lollapalooza III in Philadelphia,
stood naked on stage for 15 minutes without singing or playing
a note in a protest against censorship. . . In 1997, well before
most college students were paying any attention to the issue,
Rage's Tom Morello was arrested during a protest against sweatshop
labor. Throughout this period no members of the band were invited
to discuss politics with Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer. But a generation
heard them anyway.
PROTESTS, like everything else in life,
can become pretty sterile. But browsing an online history of
punk in DC, we came across a fascinating description of the role
of local punk rockers in the anti-apartheid movement including
drumming the hell out of the South African embassy. Go
to the site, click on enter and then find the embassy on
WHY SOCIAL MOVEMENTS DON'T
MICHAEL ALBERT, who advocates what he calls
participatory economics, has some important thoughts on why current
day social movements don't do better in this interview. It's
a point your editor has been trying to make for sometime, as
in his 1993 book "Shadows of Hope:"Go back to the 60s
and Ralph Nader was about the only public interest lawyer in
town who wore a suit and his wasn't pressed. Today, many advocacy
groups have drifted into the lawyerly style and pace of the establishment
they are supposedly trying to change. They have, in their own
way, become capital institutions, part of the ritualized, status-conscious,
and very safe, trench warfare of the city."
BOYCOTTS ARE BACK
PAUL ROCKWELL, COMMON DREAMS - In her address
at the World Social Forum in Porte Allegre, Brazil, January 27th,
2003, Arundhati Roy put out a call for a new strategy of non-cooperation.
. . "The U.S. economy," she writes, "is strung
out across the globe. It's economic outposts are exposed and
vulnerable. Our strategy must be to isolate empire's working
parts and disable them one by one. No target is too small. No
victory too insignificant."
"We could reverse the idea of economic
sanctions imposed on poor countries by Empire and its Allies.
We could impose a regime of people's sanctions on every corporation
that has been awarded a contract in post-war Iraq. Each one of
them should be named, exposed and boycotted-forced out of business.
It would be a great start."
Weekend protests, Roy tells us, are not
enough. "What we need to discuss urgently are strategies
of resistance...Gandhi's salt march was not just political theatre.
In a simple act of defiance, thousands of Indians marched to
the sea and made their own salt. It was a direct strike at the
economic underpinning of the British Empire."
"Already the Internet is buzzing with
elaborate lists of American and British government products and
companies that should be boycotted...They could become a practical
guide that directs and channels the amorphous but growing fury
in the world." . . .
THE GHOST OF SAUL ALINSKY RETURNS
[A wonderful example of the sort of
coalition that can be built around a single issue even if participants
disagree on many other things. In addition to the groups mentioned
below two local car dealers, some resataurant owners, and the
owner of four gas stations have also come out agains the stadium]
S.A. MILLER, WASHINGTON TIMES - A diverse
coalition including local politicians, black-power militants,
homosexual activists and child-welfare advocates has emerged
to oppose plans for a Major League Baseball stadium in Southeast,
as the D.C. Council today begins debating legislation for the
"sweetheart" ballpark deal. A group calling itself
No D.C. Taxes for Baseball, made up of more than 20 organizations
ranging from the New Black Panther Party to D.C. Action for Children,
plans to demonstrate this morning on the steps of the John A.
Wilson Building, home of the City Council and the mayor's office.
. . Other groups in the coalition are the Campaign for the D.C.
School Budget, the Council of Latino Agencies, D.C. Black Church
Initiative, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, D.C. Library Renaissance
Project, the D.C. League of Women Voters, Parents United for
the D.C. Public Schools, Save D.C. Parks and Play Spaces, the
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and Wider Opportunities
for Women. Although they represent an array of causes, the groups
are united in the belief that the District could better spend
taxpayer money on any one of their missions. They also agree
that when the Montreal Expos relocate to the District, the team
could make RFK Stadium its permanent home.
NOT SO BARE WITNESS
BUT IT'S ALASKA AFTER ALL. About
375 clothed people formed an S.O.S. and a peace sign in a snow
covered hayfield near Fairbanks, to speak out against the threatened
war in Iraq. The sign, created by a diverse group of peace activists
and church members, was 100 feet tall and 250 feet wide. For
an incredible collection of similar protests around the world
go to Baring
Witness DORIS PFALMER PFOTO
SYDNEY INDY MEDIA
- There's been discussion in geek circles about using the idea
of flash mobs in protests. The idea is to get a large number
of protestors to spread out over the target area and blanket
it for a certain time. Rather than gathering a couple of hundred
people outside the town hall, put a couple of people on each
of the street corners in the central city, each with a placard
and flyers. This way the protest reaches many more people directly,
and in a more approachable way - one or two people are not as
intimidating as a big group, and are more able to use the space
without breaking any laws.
Media impact will most probably come indirectly.
The first protest might get direct media, as they chase about
trying to find out what's going on. After that I think it's more
likely to be viral - people telling others about what they saw
and the flyer they got. I think this is actually more useful
to groups looking for an educational campaign rather than to
apply media pressure to a politician, for instance.
If the police do ask someone to move on,
they use the Critical Mass technique of moving on, and making
the movement part of the protest. Simply move to the next corner,
and if it's already occupied, those people move back to the first
one. Or move on in turn. That way no one ends up getting pushed
from one end of the city to the other. This makes the protest
very difficult to shut down, as the cops have to round up a hundred
or more small groups of people, each of whom is doing very little
out of the ordinary.
KURO5HIN - When
I went to the June 23rd protest against Bush and his abuse of
the office of President, I held up a provocative sign, "Why
did Bush block the investigation of the 9/11 attacks?" The
protest was large and loud - as it should be. A few thousand
people showed up, but many of them could not find a place to
stand in the pens that were set aside for the protest. After
the protest, I walked to Bryant park - with my sign - and noticed
that I got a lot more attention as a "lone-protestor."
People came up to me and asked questions. Everyone in sight plainly
read my sign, and many people asked me to turn it - so they could
get a better view.
It dawned on me that another way to protest
is for everyone to simply carry a sign on the street, on a designated
day. That way more people will see the message. Imagine how powerful
it would be that when you went to work, or to the shops, saw
a person carrying a sign on every block, no matter where you
looked and as far as you went. . .